Ivan Padilla didn’t see himself in the steel industry but, back in 2008, things weren’t working out so well in mortgage finance. “I started in the steel industry by pure luck back in 2008. I was in mortgage finance and you probably remember what happened to the real estate industry in the US that year. I looked for a job for 6 months.”
A break happened thanks both to Ivan’s alumni network and his quick recognition of a valuable opportunity. “In early October 2008, Sergio Torres, currently the General Manager at Santa Fe Springs Kloeckner, who I had met in college, send an email to our alumni network with an opportunity as an Inside Sales Apprentice at a coil coating company. I replied and started at Kloeckner on October 6th, 2008.”
For seven years, Ivan has been a fixture at SFS Kloeckner, continuing to show a knack for embracing opportunities as Kloeckner has grown its presence in Southern California. “My first five years I was a Territory Manager covering Southern California. In January 2018, I was promoted to Sales Manager of the newly merged Santa Fe Springs and Los Angeles Kloeckner divisions.
When he started in the steel industry as an Inside Sales Apprentice, Ivan admits he was fully immersed in the smaller world of “coil coated products, painted aluminum, and painted galvanized.” But, over time, he was exposed to the Kloeckner’s full product line, and continues to be amazed by it and what it’s meant for his career.
“What I love about Kloeckner is the diversity of our product line offering. At Kloeckner, the words ‘metal industry’ took on a whole different and exciting meaning for the career I had embarked on. For example at our Santa Fe Springs branch, we supply metal that goes into HVAC products, pool heaters, BBQ ranges, truck tonneau covers, high-end architectural exteriors, and plates that go on container ships. We roll cylinders and press break up to 1” thick plate! The product mix and variety of customers make my job exciting every day.”
Most exciting are the high-end architectural coated and painted products. “Coming from a coil coating background, anything that starts with a coil coating solution makes the day fun. It’s great to see finished projects where we’ve supplied painted material to stadiums, airports, hotels, and other architectural marvels.”
Ivan engages with a range of products and customers every day. “A regular day in the office for me would be spent helping the commercial team meet their customer expectations. That could be either working with production to meet a tight deadline, coordinating with purchasing to price a new contract, or helping territory managers earn new business.”
But, what excites Ivan about Kloeckner isn’t just what he does every day, but the promise of where he might go in the near future with the company as it embarks on new digitization initiatives. This is definitely one area where he’ll be able to leverage his status as a technology-embracing millennial and, true to his character, he isn’t waiting around to do it. Today, that means, helping his team “understand Kloeckner’s vision in terms of digital change and encouraging them to embrace it and get involved in available trainings.”
Meanwhile, he’s watching Kloeckner digital transformation projects closely. “Both our digital and artificial intelligence projects are very exciting as we get a chance to be a part of game-changing industry solutions. I feel like Kloeckner is in the process of creating a prestige brand and it is due in large part to the bold direction we have embarked on.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement. As a millennial himself, Ivan sees that there’s room for improvement in how Kloeckner presents itself to younger people, especially considering how much progress has been made on the technological front. “We need to do a better job promoting our industry to the millennial and younger generation. We should be talking to college students about the metals industry. It’s either still seen as a non-glamorous career or they just don’t even know what it entails.”
Case in point, Ivan doesn’t just see his peers at Kloeckner in sales roles. “We have metallurgists, chemists, automotive experts, and, now, programmers and developers. We need to change the current perception of the metals industry and attract talent.” Thank you, Ivan, for helping us do just that.